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Battle for the Basement: Uh oh, Pistons are losing by winning

The Detroit Pistons started the year 4-20 and fans who weren't so frustrated they lit their old Bob Sura jerseys on fire started getting visions of Anthony Davis dancing in their heads.

But recently, the Pistons have turned it around, going 11-6 in their last 17 games. In lottery terms, that means less visions of Davis and more visions of a Zeller brother. There is a saying about the NBA thrown around from time to time, you either want to be one of the best team's in the league or one of the worst. If you're the best you have a shot at a championship, if you're the worst you have a chance to draft a difference-maker in league where one player can catapult you to contender status. Anything in between and you're just running in place.

With that in mind, I thought now would be a great time for the inaugural Battle of the Basement post -- a weekly look at the NBA's worst teams and what it means for the Pistons' lottery chances. So who qualifies? Well, unless the Charlotte Bobcats start resembling an NBA team I won't even bother to examine their play. They seem like a 99 percent shot to finish the season with the NBA's worst record so what would be the point?

That leaves the Detroit Pistons along with the Washington Wizards, New Orleans Hornets, Toronto Raptors, New Jersey Nets, Sacramento Kings and the Cleveland Cavaliers. That covers teams currently projected to pick 2-8 and the Milwaukee Bucks are hot on the heels of the ignoble club.

To explain some of the information below, the future strength of schedule number is courtesy of, as well as the power ratings and the predictive end-of-season rankings. The Hollinger rating comes from John Hollinger's power rankings on ESPN. Both systems use numbers beyond strictly wins and losses and instead uses more complex methodology to examine the best and worst teams.


Detroit Pistons (15-26)

Wins: Lakers, Hawks, Raptors
Losses: None
Last 10: 6-4
L10 scoring margin: +0.29
Season margin: -5.83
To date SOS: 27
Future SOS: 21
Power Rating: 26
Hollinger Rating: 27
Predictive Rank: 28
Upcoming Week: @Jazz, @Kings, @Suns, @Clippers

Comments: The Pistons scored some thrilling victories at home against the Lakers and Hawks, but the real test is upcoming as they go out west. They have only won three games all season away from the Palace of Auburn Hills, and they play eight of their next nine on the road. If the Pistons are really an improved team this road trip will be the tell-tale sign. As of now, the ESPN mock draft lottery has the Pistons selecting Indiana freshman Cody Zeller.

Check out the teams battling the Pistons for a lottery spot after the jump.

Washington Wizards (9-30)

Wins: Lakers
Losses: Warriors, Blazers
Last 10: 2-8
L10 scoring margin: -5.23
Season margin: -8.36
To date SOS: 24
Future SOS: 21
Power Rating: 29
Hollinger Rating: 29
Predictive Rank: 29
Upcoming Week: @Spurs, @Mavs, @Hornets, @Hawks, @Grizzlies

Comments: The Wizards have struggled all year and have an absolutely brutal road schedule in the next week with five games in seven days and all but one a serious playoff contender.

New Orleans Hornets (10-31)

Wins: None
Losses: @Blazers, @Kings, @Nuggets
Last 10: 3-7
L10 scoring margin: -3.36
Season margin: -5.24
To date SOS: 1
Future SOS: 22
Power Rating: 27
Hollinger Rating: 23
Predictive Rank: 23
Upcoming Week: Bobcats, Lakers, Wizards, @Nets

Comments: The Hornets have the third-worst record in the NBA, but much of the blame for that goes to their schedule so far being the league's toughest. They only have the seventh-worst scoring margin, and that is a good indicator of where they will finish up the season. With games next week against the Bobcats, Wizards and Nets, it will be a good opportunity for the Hornets to come away with some wins.

Toronto Raptors (13-28)

Wins: Rockets
Losses: Magic, Pistons, Bucks
Last 10: 4-6
L10 scoring margin: +0.36
Season margin: -4.02
To date SOS: 28
Future SOS: 20
Power Rating: 26
Hollinger Rating: 24
Predictive Rank: 24
Upcoming Week: @Cavs, @Nets, @Grizzlies, @Bobcats

Comments: Losing on the road to the Pistons did the Raptors no favors, but they can make up for that with games against the Cavs, Nets and Bobcats.

New Jersey Nets (14-28)

Wins: Clippers, @Bobcats
Losses: @Heat, Rockets
Last 10: 5-5
L10 scoring margin: -4.50
Season margin: -6.45
To date SOS: 12
Future SOS: 30
Power Rating: 25
Hollinger Rating: 27
Predictive Rank: 27
Upcoming Week: Bucks, Raptors, @Magic, Hornets

Comments: The Nets have the league's easiest schedule from this point forward, and they are 5-5 in the last 10. They've only got 14 wins but many winnable games in the future. Assuming that the team keeps Deron Williams they should vault in front of the Pistons. And if they somehow manage to trade for Dwight Howard then, obviously, many more wins will follow.

Sacramento Kings (14-27)

Wins: Hornets, Mavs
Losses: @Nuggets, Hawks
Last 10: 4-6
L10 scoring margin: -3.21
Season margin: -6.68
To date SOS: 11
Future SOS: 25
Power Rating: 24
Hollinger Rating: 25
Predictive Rank: 26
Upcoming Week: Warriors, Pistons, Celtics, Timberwolves

Comments: The Kings have struggled, but certainly looked better after dispatching coach Paul Westphal early in the season. Note that their schedule gets much easier from here on out.

Cleveland Cavaliers (16-23)

Wins: Nuggets, Thunder, Rockets
Losses: Jazz
Last 10: 4-6
L10 scoring margin: -3.92
Season margin: -3.74
To date SOS: 21
Future SOS: 26
Power Rating: 23
Hollinger Rating: 26
Predictive Rank: 25
Upcoming Week: Raptors, @Bucks, Hawks

Comments: The Cavs have the best scoring margin on this list, sitting at only -3.72. That is a sign that they've been unlucky, and with their schedule easing up a bit they should see more wins as a result.